Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Baby Gear Top 10: Swing

We have a number of friends who are joining the wonderful world of parenthood this year, so I thought it might be helpful to share information about our favorite baby gear for the newborn phase. I'll be sharing our picks over the next couple weeks. Keep in mind, these are not ranked in any particular order.

I don't know if we would have gotten any rest in the first couple months without the swing! Certainly, not every baby will need the kind of constant motion that Lana did (she slept in that thing all night for probably 6 weeks), but it sure wouldn't hurt. If you're familiar with The Happiest Baby on the Block, you know how soothing constant motion is to a newborn and how highly recommended swings are. Our child completely rejected her bassinet, and I couldn't get a wink of sleep if she was in our bed, so the swing was our savior in those early months. Remember, it's important that you get some of you're own recovery time, rather than constantly burning a path in the hardwood by doing circles (like I did around 5:30 every single night until Raf finally walked in the door!)

So, let's talk about swing styles. Our lovely neighbor gave us her old school style swing (like you see in the Happiest Baby DVD). I'm pretty sure it's a Graco. It sits very upright, has very little cusion, and only swings front to back. While this was nice to distract Lana for short periods of time while she watch me cook, or Grandpa fix things...she was NOT going to sleep in it! No way, no how.

The swing we used daily was an older version of the one pictured here. They're nice because they recline super far back, they're very plush, you don't have to have the toy bar installed (which is nice for creating a sleep environment, and because there's no plastic bar between their legs so you can jimmy the restraint system to work while they're swaddled!), it has a variety of white noise options, including a clicking with each swing that I grew quite attached to, and it swings both front to back AND side to side. Lana was definitely a side to side swing sleeper. Also, they get going pretty fast and swing pretty wide, which was nice for a girl who required very vigorous soothing! One extra nice thing about this newer version is that it has a plug-in option, so you don't have to constantly be burning through batteries.

I would say that this is definitely an item to consider borrowing or buying used. We borrowed ours from a friend, and were very happy to be able to give it back when it outgrew it's usefulness (around 3 months for us). It's very easy to wash the cushions, so there's no ick factor with getting one used. And EVERYONE has a swing, so they're pretty easy to find on Craigslist if you don't have an option to borrow. Just do yourself a favor and stick with this newer style, rather than kicking it super old school!

Side note: I'm really curious to hear a friend's experience with the Mamaroo? They look super cool, but from reviews I've read, I'm concerned that the motion may not have been vigorous enough for our little bean. Has anyone had any experience with one??

Monday, May 30, 2011

Baby Gear Top 10: Boppy Pillow

We have a number of friends who are joining the wonderful world of parenthood this year, so I thought it might be helpful to share information about our favorite baby gear for the newborn phase. I'll be sharing our picks over the next couple weeks. Keep in mind, these are not ranked in any particular order. Up first: the Boppy pillow
I've found the Boppy to be super helpful for breastfeeding. When I'm out and about without it, it's so much more uncomfortable and cumbersome to feed Lana. I know some people haven't found them to be terribly useful, but I think because I have such a long torso, it's a major pain to be without it. (It's exhausting to hold a baby up with one arm for 15 minutes!) 

Top tip: Bring your Boppy with you to the hospital!!! We didn't and learning to breastfeed was awful. Trying to pile up 6 or 7 pathetic hospital pillows to support your tiny, fragile newborn is a nightmare.

While we're talking Boppy, I haven't tried one myself, but I've heard good things about the Newborn Lounger. I could definitely see the (short term) value in this tool....it's tough to find a soft, safe place to put a brand new baby down! However, it's useful for such a short period of time, I'd definitely recommend trying to find one to borrow or buy used. 

Chasing Tail

I'll randomly hear Lana squealing and giggling out of nowhere. It's always because she's spotted the DG Dog. And it always, always, always makes my heart happy. Enjoy!

Friday, May 27, 2011

UFO Progress: Itty Bitty Blankies

I'm slowly but surely making a bit of progress on my UFOs. Today I finished a handful of Itty Bitty Blankies--a new item I'm adding to my Bumble Designs page through Facebook. These adorable little snugglers are perfect for tucking newborns into their carseat, and for using as a lovie blanket as the baby grows. I have so many cute designer cottons to pair with the snuggle fabrics. (I mean, seriously, do you see those little cassette tapes?!) Love them!

Get the details and shop here.

June Photography Challenge

Ok, you know how I keep saying that I need to learn how to use my camera? I'm serious this time. It's going to happen! Maybe. Hopefully. Definitely! 

To get me motivated, I've decided to join White Peach Photography's 30 Day Photography Challenge during the month of June (discovered via Pinterest). The unique criteria I've set for myself: I must use my DSLR in the manual setting. Eek! 

You can expect to see some rough photos here very soon. Hopefully you'll also see improvement over time (as the crap I'm posting finally motivates me to actually read my manual and turn on Photoshop!)

So, who wants to join me?? You can't expect me to maintain motivation if only playing along with strangers now, can you?!

Double Chocolate Chewies

After putting so much effort into the chicken and dumplings, the last thing we were interested in was a from-scratch dessert endeavor. While perusing Mom's pantry, I found a treasure trove of boxed cake mixes (probably from when I unloaded my dairy-filled goods the last time I visited). I asked Mom if she'd ever heard of the Cake Doctor and she responds by pulling out a cookbook the Aunties had given her 10 years ago (it's dated by them), that she's definitely never cracked open (my mother is not big on experimentation in the kitchen department). We decided it was time to break it in!

We opted for the Double Chocolate Chewies (assuming no one else would like the Mocha version) and, my goodness, they did not disappoint! They're ooey gooey chewie on the inside (like a brownie), with a nice little crisp outer cookie shell. SO YUMMY. We skipped the nuts, of course, but I think they'd be pretty amazing with some Craisins or dried cherries (like my Christmas cookies...just not a Cooking Light version!)

Next time you find yourself with a box of devil's food cake mix in the pantry and in dire need of a sugar high, give these a shot!

Slow Cooker Revolution

I've been genuinely trying to control my Costco impulse purchase issues lately (rivaled only by my Ikea impulse purchase issues). My primary tactic to achieve this goal: don't go to Costco. However, sometimes you need a passport photo, or frozen organic mixed berries for smoothies, or a $5 rotisserie chicken for curried chicken salad, or a ginormous box of beer. You know what I mean. My impulse control issues are always most challenged in the book section; I swear, I buy a book every.single.time I go to Costco...then NEVER read them! 

So, when I stumbled across America's Test Kitchen's Slow Cooker Revolution cookbook, I did my darndest to resist. However, as I flipped through, page by page, I couldn't find a single recipe that didn't sound like it was worth trying (and I'm a picky little mama!) And you can be sure that Raf wasn't going to discourage this kind of purchase. The guy knows that his best eating since I started staying home has been when I fire up the slow cooker. Plus, I'm at my happiest in the evening on slow cooker days  because I had dinner done by 10am! Needless to say, we invested the $16.50. 

Thoughts thus far? Best impulse purchase I've ever made at Costco! I've only had time to try a few of the recipes, but so far they're all winners. Here's the thing, though...they require work. Prep work, follow up work...work. And we're kind of conditioned to expect slow cooker meals to consist of not much more than digging out the can opener and rifling through the spice cabinet. I'm still getting used to the time investment required for these recipes, but I will say that it's been worth it. Because, let's be honest: you get out what you put in. Much of the time, slow cooker meals are bland and over-done because they're not much more than frozen meat and canned randomness that's spent all day simmering away the tiny amount of flavor that they started with. So, if it takes a bit of work to get quality results, so be it! At least we're quickly expanding our list of keeper recipes.

Btw, this post was prompted because Mom and I made the Old-Fashioned Chicken and Dumplings for family dinner tonight. (Sorry, way too many ingredients and instructions to post!) Next time I'll add more broth and make marble-sized dumplings, but the underlying flavor and texture was legit. Raf and I also fell in love with the Beginner's Pulled Pork...we were eating tasty leftovers out of the freezer on that one for weeks!

Love to use the slow cooker? Do yourself a favor and grab this book!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Peekaboo Giggles & Squeals

Lana and I had some fun at breakfast time. Btw, you're getting all this video goodness because it's the only way Daddy survives when we leave him for 3 weeks. :( Lucky you!


Lana's not so sure about Cheerios. This was the face she made after being given her first sweet potato puff while visiting her cousin, Aubrey. And as you can see in this video, she's warming up to the idea...but just barely!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Challenging My AuthoriTAY! (Cartman? Anyone...?)

Lana turned 8 months yesterday, and she's doing all kinds of awesome new stuff. She's been sitting up on her own for a couple weeks now, and can cross a room lickety split, though I wouldn't call it a crawl. Typically it's a mix of army style (dragging the legs behind), frogger style (jumping both legs forward at once), or the old tried and true: rolling. However, today she started putting together a completely legit crawl series--3 or 4 hand/knee combos in a row, in an effort to go after something she desperately wants (of course). So far, this list has included the dog, the dog's bowls, and Drew's pager. She went zooming after the dog bowls in the kitchen a good 20 times today. All the while with me hovering above, reciting an ominous, "No Lana. NO Lana. Noooooo Lana. Don't even think about it, kid!" This was, of course, after she totally snuck past me the first time and dumped DG's water bowl all over the kitchen and herself.

Most mothers would do the obvious thing and simply move the bowls off the floor. But I'm a glutton for punishment and I know that Lana understands no, she's just beginning to test her (and my!) limits. (Oh what fun!) So, I said no 800 times. She progressed anyway, 800 times. And I moved her away 798 times. Oh yes, there was some success! Whether it was driven by understanding and conformity or distraction by her reflection in the stove, or the tasty lure of the closest rug, I cannot say...but she did stop at least a couple times, so I'm counting it!

For even more evidence of Lana challenging my No (and cruising for toys!), check out this video...

In other news, Lana totally said, "DG" (the dog's name) tonight!! I know I sound crazy, but she was sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor and the dog was zooming past her this way and that and out of nowhere she says (binky in mouth), "DG!" My mom and I looked at each other with amazed expressions and cracked up. I'm sure it was probably just gas, but it was pretty awesome either way!

Monday, May 23, 2011


No, not the alien kind; way scarier than that. UnFinished Objects...of the crafting kind! I'm the queen of unfinished projects--whether crafts, cleaning, organizing, you name it. I'm quick on the get up, but (without FIRM deadlines) I quickly lose steam.

It's quite frustrating to have half-finished projects cluttering up the house (and my brain), so I decided to bring only UFOs with me to Oregon. No new sewing endeavors, no fancy new card plans--just get some open projects done! And, believe me, I have plenty to choose from! Here are some that I brought...
  • Baby Washcloths. Pretty sure I cut the fabric for these before Lana was born... Check! First UFO completed! (See above.) The characters on these washcloths make wiping Lana's face after eating a breeze. She normally HATES having her face wiped, but if you say, "the purple whale is gunna...GET YOU!!", then all is right in the world. :)
  • Baby Blankets. I have the fabrics cut for probably 12-15(?!) baby blankets that are due this summer, or not yet sold. It would be SO nice to have a stash of already completed blankets for customers to choose from, rather than constantly working against the clock. 
  • Napkins. That I cut the fabric for when I first started sewing. Literally. I think they were intended to be Christmas presents in...2007 maybe?!?! To be honest, I'm not even interested anymore, but they're already cut!! Ugh. 
  • Maddy's Doll. Can you believe I still haven't embroidered her face on?? Where is Jordan, damn it??!
  • Birthday Cards for Neighbor. I have this stack of card bases (with designer paper, but no sentiment) that volunteers put together for work a couple years ago. We never got around to  using them, and I came across them while cleaning recently. Most are pretty hideous (a new cardmaker's idea of awesome is sometimes a little...well, interesting!) so they need some serious work to be useable. Good news--my neighbor organizes monthly birthday parties for people who get meals through Open Heart Kitchen. Such a sweet idea--they give them little gift bags of donated items--primarily necessities like soap and new socks--but also some fun things like playing cards and notebooks. Anyway, I asked her if they had birthday cards to include--she said no, and I remembered this stack. All they need is a sentiment and some serious TLC. Perfect job for my mother...! ;)
  • Snack Bags. I have a bunch of bags cut from blanket scraps, they just need to be sewn up!
  • CD Holders. I have 3 or 4 open orders for monogrammed CD Holders through my Bumble Etsy shop, so I had a bunch of blanks shipped directly to my mom so I can knock out a good 200+ while I'm here!
  • Cards. Definitely low on the list of priorities, but I have a bunch of papers cut and some bases started, so there's certainly work to be done in this area as well! 
PLENTY to do, right?! And this doesn't even touch my list of digital dos...
  • Digital photo overhaul. Including...continuing to import everything I can find. Merging and naming Events. Purging crap. Assigning keywords. Creating (digital) Albums. Tagging photos for printing and adding to books. Etc, etc, etc....
  • Evernote Cleanup. I love using Evernote, but now that I'm a good 6 months in, I'd like to start organizing the space better. Purge links for recipes I'll never cook and crafts I'll never make. Create a Recipe Rotation notebook as a single stop to find all our tried and true favorites. Keep things I find visually inspiring on Pinterest instead. 
  • Convert to using my Mac Address Book as my primary. Import Google contacts and conduct major cleanup. Again. And for the LAST time! 
  • Watch Photoshop Elements tutorials til I go cross-eyed. 
  • Read the manual for my DSLR. Act like I understand it. Buy a book to dumb it down for me. 
  • Fabric shopping. Yes, amazingly I still need more. (Customers love those animal prints!)
  • Baby gear shopping. To prepare for Poland. And our ever-growing little monster. 
  • Choose a provider and setup a Bumble shop for cards and sewn gift items. 
Think I can get it all done (and jump back on the blogging bus) in the next 2 weeks?? HA! Not likely, but I'll sure try to make a gnarly dent! 

Happy Birthday, Auntie JorJor!!

Better late than never, right?! Love you!! xo

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Escape from Graco-traz

Last weekend, Raf was helping his dad move out of his shop, which left lots of time for Lana and I to entertain ourselves. After way too many napless hours, I decided it was time to attempt to get her to sleep in her carseat. I knew it would be unlikely in an still vehicle, but she was pooped so it was worth a shot. 

I put her in her seat and looped her arms into the straps, but didn't lock anything down, then took up residence in the front seat to do some sewing. About 5 minutes later, I hear some grunting. Effort-filled grunting. That doesn't sound like her sleep hum....

So I turn around and this is what I find! Butt in the air, fully escaping from her carseat! Nice to know the little Houdini hasn't lost her touch.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Two Things

  1. I'm back! Well, at least my MacBook is. And thank goodness! I was starting to get SERIOUSLY grumpy after 6+ weeks without it. Especially after learning we lost everything. :(
  2. Is it super weird that I really want this bingo set? (Available through hopscout today!) It's freaking adorable! Who cares that Lana won't be able to handle her own bingo card for a few years, or that I have no space for it?? Details.